Monday, February 9, 2009

Manifesto: Engaged students, profound learning gains

This week, I plan to work through Rick Stiggins’ Assessment Manifesto, using half-a dozen posts to tease out some key ideas in a form that fits the Kentucky discussion.

Current assessment methods do not just measure learning: the tests themselves teach students something we can't ignore. Students who do well on the tests benefit, learning that further effort can bring them further success. For others, the results are not as benign:
Consider, for example, that students are constantly asking themselves, “Can I get this, or is it just too hard for me? Is the learning worth the energy I must expend to attain it? Is the learning worth the risk of public failure?” We must understand that, if students come down on the wrong side of these crucial decisions and thus stop trying, it doesn’t matter what the adults around them decide. The learning stops. (page 8 of the Manifesto.)
Stiggins proposes an "assessment for learning" approach aimed at turning those despairing students into energized participants:
We help students build a strong sense of academic self-efficacy when we help them understand that their role in the assessment environment is to strive to understand what success looks like and when we show them how to use each assessment to determine how to do better the next time. (page 9)
And Stiggins argues that the approach he urges us to take on already has proven, important results:
When assessment for learning practices like these play out as a matter of routine in classrooms, as mentioned previously, evidence gathered from dozens of studies conducted around the world consistently reveals a half to a full standard deviation gain in student achievement attributable to the careful management of the classroom assessment process, with the largest gains accruing for struggling learners. (page 10)
Manifesto Point 1: Assessment for learning shows students how they can succeed and energizes them to make stronger efforts. When that happens, they learn at much higher levels. There’s a sunlit vision of confident, excellent classroom work at the heart of this Manifesto project.

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